Run down house

Landlords could soon be sued for letting out unfit properties

The government is considering new legislation supporting tenants in private rental properties that are considered unfit for habitation – and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is all for it.

Sajid Javid, the secretary for housing, communities and local government, has confirmed the government’s support for the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill 2017-2019, which was put forward by Labour‘s Karen Buck as a measure to combat the poor accommodation offered by some UK landlords.

Buck acknowledged that property safety had come under much more scrutiny since the Grenfell Tower disaster, which had influenced the Bill but was not the primary driver behind it.

If passed, the Bill – which will have a second reading on Friday – would mean that tenants in the private rented sector (PRS) will have more powers to take legal action against landlords whose properties are not considered fit for habitation, with issues such as leaky roofs, dangerous wiring, damp and health and safety shortfalls.

Sajid Javid said: “Everyone deserves a decent and safe place to live. Councils already have wide ranging powers to crack down on the minority of landlords who rent out unsafe and substandard accommodation.

“However, public safety is paramount and I am determined to do everything possible to protect tenants. That is why the government will support new legislation that requires all landlords to ensure properties are safe and give tenants the right to take legal action if landlords fail in their duties.”

Easing into the change

Since last April, councils have been able to impose fines of up to £30,000 for landlords who rent out substandard accommodation, and will have the power to ban landlords who repeatedly breach the rules from this April. The new Homes Bill legislation would take this a step further, and has received support from industry insiders – including the RLA, which represents and supports UK landlords.

“As a landlord, the homes you are providing should be fit for people to live in,” said the RLA’s policy manager, John Stewart. He acknowledged the fact that landlords would be offered protection, too, as tenants who cause the property to become unfit for habitation would not be able to take action against the landlord.

He also added that there would be time for landlords to adjust to the new rules – which is beneficial as the sector has seen a lot of change and new regulations recently.

“The Bill will initially only apply to new or renewed fixed-term tenancies after it is implemented. It will then apply to periodic tenancies 12 months after the Bill comes into force, giving landlords time to ensure properties are up to standard.”

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